Posts Tagged ‘Sasha

13
Apr
14

The Obamas Watch ‘A Raisin In The Sun’

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Michael Schulman: Watching The Obamas Watch “A Raisin In The Sun”

On Thursday, the cast of the Broadway revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” was told that a “high-level official” would be coming to the show the next night. Who could it be? Kathleen Sebelius had just resigned—maybe she had more time for theatregoing? Word got out on Friday afternoon: the Obamas were coming to Broadway. By seven o’clock that night, Forty-Seventh Street had been partitioned off, and the Barrymore Theatre was swarming with security guys—not an unwelcome sight, after the Times reported that Broadway has had a tough time attracting men. This was not Obama’s first act of Presidential playgoing. In 2009, he and Michelle went on a date night to August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” and the First Lady has brought her daughters to “Memphis” and “The Addams Family.” “A Raisin in the Sun” was more than a safe choice: it was an undeniably poignant one. It premièred in 1959, and made Lorraine Hansberry the first African-American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. The story follows a black family in Chicago preparing to move into a big, fancy house, despite resistance from their conservative white neighbors. (Sound familiar?) And its themes are as lofty and as loaded as Obama’s: upward mobility, the pain of progress, and, as Sarah Palin might put it (though Hansberry certainly did not), “that hopey, changey stuff.”

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The lights went down, and the door to the street swung open. A stream of people, including the President, the First Lady (in black), and Valerie Jarrett, snaked through to the back of the house and then down the aisle. Ignoring the announcer’s pleas, the audience leaped to its feet—this usually happens at the end of the show—and camera flashes twinkled in the darkened theatre. The Obamas shook some hands and took their seats. It’s not often that a single member of the audience commands more attention than the action onstage, and in the initial minutes there was a jittery energy that distracted from the story. Denzel Washington got his usual entrance applause (and a few catcalls from the balcony). If it took a while to buy him as Walter Lee Younger, it wasn’t because Washington is twenty-four years older than his character: Obama’s Obama-ness somehow increased Denzel’s Denzel-ness. At intermission, the Obamas went backstage to meet the cast, as patrons flooded the bar.

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Act Two was sprinkled with unspoken moments of meta-theatre. When Walter asks his son, Travis, what he wants to be when he grows up, the boy says, “Bus driver.” His father urges him to dream bigger, and the words “President of the United States” seemed to waft in the air momentarily. In the end, the Youngers take the house, defying the enmity of the “welcoming committee.” They are the change they’ve been waiting for. At the curtain call, the Obamas joined the audience in a standing ovation, and Denzel Washington tipped his fedora to the President, flashing his matinee-idol grin. Scott Rudin, the powerhouse producer, said, “I pretty much cried the whole time.” Bryce Clyde Jenkins, the thirteen-year-old who plays Travis Younger, was still beaming. “I was in school at 11:08 when my teacher, Miss Bernadette, pulled it up on the computer that the First Lady and the President were coming to the performance tonight,” he said. “I kind of jumped for joy inside myself.” Did he find it hard to concentrate onstage? “No,” Jenkins said. “We have a responsibility to the people who are in the show and the Obamas to put on a good show and treat them like they’re our last audience.”

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30
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama enters the South Portico of the White House following his arrival aboard Marine One on the South Lawn, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

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Addicting Info: Ted Cruz Tries To Use Facebook To Prove No One Likes Obamacare And It Blows Up In His Face

The Tea Party crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a huge snag this week. On March 24, 2014, Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

Ask a question, get an answer. The question Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz asked on facebook was simple. Are you better off now than you were before the ACA, also called Obamacare, was signed into law, four years ago? Nearly 40,000 comments later, the resounding answer from people all across the country was YES.

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NYT: New G.O.P. Bid To Limit Voting In Swing States

Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The decision allowed a number of mostly Southern states to alter their election laws without the prior approval once required from the Justice Department. A few weeks later, free of the mandate and emboldened by a Republican supermajority, North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping restrictions on voting.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Survivors Of Domestic Violence Now Have Better Access To Obamacare Benefits

Survivors of domestic violence who are living separately from an abusive spouse will now be able to claim tax credits to help them afford an Obamacare plan, thanks to new rules being developed by the federal government. Before the change, these individuals were locked out of federal assistance for health care unless they filed joint taxes with their abuser. Obamacare’s tax credits are intended to ensure that insurance plans on the new marketplaces are affordable for the Americans who may otherwise struggle to pay for health care. But in order for married people to qualify, the health law requires them to file their taxes jointly. If they file separately, they lose out on the federal assistance altogether. Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that policy ends up harming victims of abuse —

particularly because domestic violence is more concentrated among low-income households, and the victims who are financially dependent on their abusers are less likely to be able to extricate themselves from the relationship.  Last week, a group of 79 lawmakers, led by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), urged the Treasury Department to change this policy and safeguard victims of domestic violence. It only took a few days for Treasury officials to agree. “For victims of domestic abuse, contacting a spouse for purposes of filing a joint return may pose a risk of injury or trauma or, if the spouse is subject to a restraining order, may be legally prohibited. Your concerns are consistent to those expressed to us by numerous others in public comments and meetings,” the Treasury Department acknowledged on Wednesday in a written response to Slaughter and Doggett, explaining that the administration will work on finalizing a new rule on this issue.

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Pete Souza: Pres Obama talks on phone to Pres Putin from Saudi Arabia Friday night

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama Pursues The Right Response To Russia’s 19th-Century Behavior

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced.

Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such. You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

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@GOPIsPoverty

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Guardian: Kerry To Meet Russia’s Lavrov For Ukraine Talks In Paris On Sunday

Halfway home from Saudi Arabia, US secretary of state John Kerry has abruptly changed course. He will now stay in Europe for talks on Ukraine. The news followed reports from Russia that Kerry had spoken to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, by phone, a day after President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama. The Russian foreign ministry said Washington had initiated the call between Kerry and Lavrov, adding that they discussed Ukraine and plans for further contact.

Flying from Riyadh to Ireland for a refuelling stop, Kerry decided to turn around after speaking to Lavrov from the plane. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki confirmed on Saturday that Kerry had arrived in Paris and that the meeting would be held on Sunday.

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Kate Nocera: Univision Works Overtime To Get Latinos Enrolled In Obamacare

The Obama administration has been working overtime in recent months to enroll uninsured Latinos — one of the groups most likely to be uninsured — but it’s not just the White House making a concerted effort. For more than a year, the Spanish-language television network Univision has embarked on their own company-wide effort to get Latinos signed up on the exchanges, working through newscasts, special programming, advertising partnerships, and a dedicated health care website. Univision has not only been providing information to their viewers as to how to sign up but openly encouraging them to do so.

The network’s “empowerment initiatives” team — which focuses primarily on health and educational programming — began looking for partners to help their audience find coverage last year. Univision ultimately went with the California Endowment and the Ford Foundation, launching in earnest last April. The company makes no bones about what they were trying to do. Empowerment Initiatives Director Stephen Keppel told BuzzFeed that the company thinks “it’s better to have health insurance than not to have it” and because of the high number of uninsured Latinos, it was an important initiative for them to take on.

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BBC: Vladmir Putin: The Rebuilding Of ‘Soviet’ Russia

On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate’s speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position. This was President Boris Yeltsin’s fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin – the surname of the recently sacked prime minister – rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.

If even leading Duma deputies couldn’t remember the new prime minister’s name, you couldn’t blame the rest of the world if it didn’t pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother? That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world’s largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.

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Scott Keyes: It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets. That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond. The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors. In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

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Sara Fischer: Biden: Undocumented Immigrants ‘Already American Citizens’

Vice President Joe Biden echoed the West Wing’s “we can’t wait” mantra Thursday, telling a crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit that “undocumented aliens” are already American citizens. “You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens,” Biden said. “These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully. And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.”

Citing the contribution Hispanics have made to the American economy, Biden stressed the importance of passing immigration reform sooner rather than later, arguing, “It’s the single most significant thing we can do. It’s a game-changer financially for the country.”“Just this one act alone, if we pass the Senate bill, can extend Social Security solvency by two years.” Biden said. “Even Republicans think we should pass the Senate bill,” he later added.

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Chris Geidner: Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Texas Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court rejected Planned Parenthood’s challenge to Texas’ restrictive abortion law passed last summer, save for one small exception. Thursday’s unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision from October finding two provisions in the law unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood challenged two provisions: One required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges “at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the location where the abortion is provided.” The second provision limited medication abortions by requiring that, with few exceptions, abortion-inducing drugs only be used when they “comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

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Michael Cohen: Obama’s Not-Another-Cold-War-Vision: Don’t Hate The Players – Play The Game

From the day Barack Obama took office, his approach to American foreign policy has vacillated between a seemingly irreconcilable set of impulses. There’s been the sentimentalist agitating for reductions in nuclear weapons, calling for a more modest approach – and the commander-in-chief ramping up the US drone war, surging in Afghanistan, going far beyond his mandate to affect regime change in Libya. There was the lawyer and internationalist drawing a redline on Syria’s use of chemical weapons – and the hard-headed realist who, to date, has assiduously avoided any policy that would risk miring the US in that country’s bloody civil war. Yesterday in Brussels, as Obama spoke about the proper response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, those contending instincts were once again on stark display.

Yet rarely has Obama so effectively navigated the middle ground between them – or quite so lovingly embraced Europe as he cast a distinctly icy glare at Vladimir Putin. In the process, the American president offered perhaps the clearest sense of his own vision on international relations: one that upholds the international system for its role in creating a world of greater peace and security – and explaining why, in an era of retrenchment, that system matters more than ever.In Obama’s formulation, peace is a product of universalist ideals, yes. But it is sustained and reinforced by an international system of laws and norms.

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Betsy Phillips: Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s The Focus

Danny Faulkner, a “scientist” working for the same group that runs Kentucky’s creation museum was complaining last week that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey doesn’t address creationism.Actually, Tyson is deliberately and straightforwardly giving a whole lot of time to creationism. Why did we have to sit through the history of the eyeball? Creationists love to argue that the complexity of the eyeball disproves evolution. Note how he talked specifically about how the eyeball isn’t actually this perfect mechanism, but something that works well enough for what we need it for, but not as well as it does in fish — the whole idea that the eyeball is a perfect, too-complex thing is a creationist argument.

 Another example: Why did Tyson spend so much time explaining the similarities and differences in how polar bears have evolved through natural selection vs. how dogs have changed in the time we’ve been breeding them for certain traits? Because creationists acknowledge that changes within species happen. They just like to pretend like one kind of organism couldn’t really have brought forth another kind of organism. Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules.Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.

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Jon Emont: Can Israeli Business Leaders Push Netanyahu Toward A Palestinian Peace Deal?

In late January, the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to appear on scores of billboards in Tel Aviv. The caption read: “A strong state signs the deal. Bibi only you can do it!” The message—to work out a peace agreement with the Palestinians—was idealistic. But the money was all business. The 1 million shekel (around $300,000) advertising campaign was paid for by the Israeli wing of Breaking the Impasse, an alliance of more than 150 Israeli corporate executives. The campaign comes at a crucial time. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is one month away from his April 29 deadline to release a framework agreement that will establish the U.S. government’s principles for a final deal.

After nine months of discussion there is widespread worry that the framework agreement will be dead on arrival. Kerry’s demands from the Palestinians might cause Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to withdraw from talks or lose his authority to negotiate. At the same time, Kerry’s demands for Israeli concessions over settlements or East Jerusalem might lead the Israeli right to pressure Netanyahu to withdraw from the talks. Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process, and Netanyahu has little domestic incentive to make concessions to spur negotiations. This worries Israeli business executives. They’re concerned that Israel will face increasing international isolation, including an expanded boycott campaign, if the talks founder. BTI represents these business people. It’s planning a well-funded public campaign to pressure Netanyahu to make concessions and sign a deal.

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Katie Zezima: Just How Popular Was Michelle Obama’s Visit To China?

According to a tally by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, photos, videos and stories about Michelle Obama’s visit to China garnered more than 1 billion page views. Yes, that’s billion with a B.It’s probably not too far-fetched of a notion, according to Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “This is really Michelle fever in China,” he said.Cheng said Obama and her family –

her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, traveled with her — showed respect for Chinese traditions and deftly weaved in diplomacy with lighter moments in a way that made the Chinese want to see what she was doing and where she was going. “Chinese do not only see this leader to leader. They see it family to family and in a broader context the respect of the two great countries,” he said. “This is why people got so excited.”

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Get Covered Illinois: #GCISuccess Stories

Rebecca S.: Rebecca, a 27 year-old Chicago resident, was denied coverage in 2012 because of her pre-existing condition. Upon being rejected in the private market, Rebecca enrolled in a plan for high-risk individuals that was beyond her price range and didn’t cover many of her health care needs. Now, Rebecca is enrolled in a Silver plan that saves her $1,600 per year compared to her previous coverage and covers the majority of her needs. Rebecca sees her new health insurance as more than just comprehensive coverage at a fair price. She believes enrolling in affordable health care is her chance at the American dream to be young and hardworking without the fear that an accident or illness will derail her dreams.

Joe Z.: Joe, a 55 year-old self-employed realtor from Chicago, previously had a COBRA plan that ended in 2013. Preparing for the New Year, Joe enrolled in a Silver plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Marketplace. He was amazed to learn that his premium would be reduced by over 50% and that his new plan offered more extensive coverage. Joe is thankful that he was able to find affordable coverage on the Marketplace, especially with his pre-existing condition. In 2005, Joe underwent open heart surgery and said it was nearly impossible to find reasonable coverage with his medical history until the Affordable Care Act. Since enrolling, he has already used his insurance at his annual checkup with his cardiologist. Joe can rest easy now knowing his medical history will never dictate the type of coverage he can get again.

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On This Day

 Standing on the Colonnade with Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bil signing ceremony in the Red Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama walks to a podium in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, before making a statement regarding the American auto industry, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama walks away from the podium after delivering a statement regarding the American auto industry in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and Staff Secretary Lisa Brown on the Colonnade prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bill signing ceremony, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 President Obama conducts interviews in the Map Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama walks towards the Oval Office, after returning to the White House from Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with advisors for a health care implementation meeting in the Oval Office, March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets actress Hilary Swank and other guest mentors in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during an event celebrating Women’s History Month, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama shakes hands with members of the audience following his speech on energy security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House, March 30, 2011. Brady, former President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan 30 years ago. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with White House correspondents Bill Plante, CBS News, and Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, in the Upper Press Office of the White House, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama looks out the window of Marine One as he departs the White House South Lawn en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md., for a trip to Vermont, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Marcelle Leahy aboard Air Force One en route to Burlington, Vt., March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in sunglasses as he greets people on the tarmac following his arrival at Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

26
Mar
14

Rise and Shine: Belgium and China

 

President Obama, Belgium’s King Philippe (C) and Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo attend a ceremony at The Flanders Field American World War I Cemetery and Memorial in Waregem, March 26

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Today (all times US Eastern):

9:10 AM: President Obama holds a press conference, Council of the European Union

11:35 AM: Meets with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen

12:45 PM: Delivers remarks, Palais Des Beaux Arts, Brussels

1:45 PM: Departs Brussels

3:40 PM: Arrives Rome

6:30: Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden Hosts a Reception in Honor of Women’s History Month, United States Naval Observatory

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The First Lady in China

First Lady Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson feed apple to giant pandas during their visit at Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu, Sichuan province, March 26

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First Lady Michelle Obama is greeted by Tibetan students as they arrive to a Tibetan restaurant for lunch in Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province

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On This Day:

On This Day: President Obama looks out the Green Room window prior to the “Open for Questions” virtual town hall meeting on the economy in the East Room of the White House, March 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama surprises personal secretary Katie Johnson with a birthday gift in the Outer Oval Office, March 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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March 26, 2011: “More often than not, the President is in the office on most Saturdays to convene a national security or economic meeting. Here, on a Saturday in March, the President listens during a conference call on Libya in the Situation Room of the White House.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama prays with faith leaders in the Oval Office following a meeting to discuss the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Aug. 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

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 President Obama signs memorabilia for March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador Nina Centofanti, 8, at the Resolute Desk during her visit to the Oval Office, March 26, 2013. Centofanti’s parents Vince and Christine, brother Nicholas, and sister Mia, not visible, stand behind her (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama bounces a soccer ball on his head while hosting a ceremony honoring players and coaches from the National Hockey League Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings and the Major League Soccer champions Los Angeles Galaxy in the East Room of the White House, March 26, 2013

Vogue, March 26, 2013

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MooOOOoorning again everyone – got completely caught up with worky stuff so ran out of time, so apologies for the teeny R&S. Will catch up later in the day.

24
Mar
14

Rise and Shine: The Netherlands and China

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President Barack Obama delivers a statement in front of Dutch master Rembrandt’s The Night Watch painting during a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Today (all times US Eastern):

4:0 AM: President Obama arrives Netherlands

4:50 AM: Tours The Rijksmuseum

7:45 AM: Holds a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China; U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, The Hague

8:00 AM: Attends meetings of The World Forum; The Hague

1:30 PM: Attends a G-7 meeting; Catshuis, the Official Residence of the Prime Minister

3:35 PM: Attends a working dinner with King Willem-Alexander; Dutch Royal Palace

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First Lady Michelle Obama watches performers dance on the City Wall in Xian, in China’s central Shaanxi province, March 24

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AFP: Obama Vows Western Unity Ahead Of Ukraine Crisis Summit

President Barack Obama on Monday vowed Western unity in punishing Moscow for annexing Crimea, ahead of crisis talks that could see Russia excluded from the G8 club of rich nations. In Ukraine itself, the country’s acting president announced that its troops had been given orders to withdraw from Crimea after the fall of another military base to Kremlin troops. “Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people, we’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far,” Obama told journalists at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Obama then headed to The Hague where he has called an emergency Group of Seven summit to discuss what steps to take in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) for what may be their most tense talks to date. It will be their first meeting since Washington imposed financial restrictions on the most powerful members of Putin’s inner circle for their decision to resort to force in response to the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin regime after three months of sometimes deadly protests.  Kerry has already warned that Moscow risks losing its coveted place among the G8 because of the Crimea crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron said leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — minus current G8 chair Russia — must discuss the permanent expulsion of Russia from the group, which it was admitted to in 1998 as a reward for choosing a democratic post-Soviet course.

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President Barack Obama, right, is greeted by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, left, upon arrival at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, Netherlands

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President Barack Obama and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans greet dignitaries upon arrival at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, Netherlands

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President Barack Obama is silhouetted as he walks towards the Marine One helicopter upon arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

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President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping take their seats before a meeting, held on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague. President Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, shakes hands. President Obama is attending the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, which will form the backdrop for an emergency meeting of Group of Seven leaders on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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National Security Advisor Susan Rice and members of President Barack Obama’s delegation stand beneath a painting by Bartholomeus van der Helst, as President Obama speaks at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

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President Barack Obama and Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, look at a guest book during a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Rijksmuseum director Wim Pijbes tells President Barack Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, where to stand in front of Dutch master Rembrandt’s The Night Watch painting during a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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President Barack Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, look at the Act of Abjuration during a visit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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The First Lady in China

A U.S. secret service officer checks a Chinese performer dressed as an ancient warrior as First Lady Michelle Obama visits a nearby city wall in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

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Q+A with First Lady Michelle Obama here

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First Lady Michelle Obama jumps rope with Chinese schoolchildren during her visit to an ancient city wall with her daughters and her mother in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

…. watching performances while they visit the ancient walled city in Xian, Shaanxi Province

….. at the Terracotta Warriors in China’s central Shaanxi province of Xian

23
Mar
14

The First Lady in China

@FLOTUS: Sharing a moment at the Great Wall. http://wh.gov/lpKi6  #FLOTUSinChina

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Read about the First Lady’s visit to China here

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First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, in Beijing March 23

Continue reading ‘The First Lady in China’

20
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, tour the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:0: President Obama Speaks on Ukraine

Times below now delayed:

11:0 President Obama departs White House

1:25: Arrives Orlando, Florida

2:0: Takes part in a roundtable with Valencia College students and local workers; Valencia College, Orlando

3:45: Departs Orlando

4:35: Arrives Miami

5:10: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence, Miami

7:35: Delivers remarks and takes questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats; private residence, Miami

8:50: Departs Miami

11:20: Arrives White House

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First Lady Michelle Obama, her mother Marian Robinson, her daughters Sasha and Malia arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport, March 20

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Information on the First Lady’s trip to China here

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Olga Khazan: For Women, The Benefits Of Insurance Outweigh Its Costs

For young women who qualify for subsidies, the free benefits of insurance offset the cost of paying for it, according to a new analysis from Nerdwallet, a consumer financial education site. The company calculated that for a 27-year-old who earns an income of $25,000, the cost of a silver insurance plan will be approximately $1,740 per year, and a bronze plan will cost approximately $1,116 per year.  But that cost is cancelled out by the range of women’s preventative health services that all insurance plans must now cover. For example, while a year’s supply of Yasmin birth control would normally have cost women $744, it’s now free for those with insurance under Obamacare.

More here

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Andrew Sprung: The Satisfied Unsubsidized: Obamacare’s Hidden Winners

More than 80 percent of the people who have signed up for health plans through state or federal Affordable Care Act exchanges qualify for subsidies to help pay premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses. But what about all the millions who don’t have access to employer-sponsored health insurance but also don’t qualify for subsidies? About half of the 12 million Americans buying health insurance on the individual market are subsidy-ineligible, according to the Urban Institute. Are they all fuming and lining up to appear in anti-Obamacare commercials? Chances are not. As veterans of the individual market, many are accustomed to its shocks and uncertainties. But many are finding their options much better and their status less precarious than in the pre-ACA market.

“Finally, in December, I was able to get on the site and look for plans in Georgia that included the doctors we used—most especially for my daughter and her preexisting condition. I found one for around $1,100 per month for my family, and being the capitalist I am, went to compare it to the private marketplace.” That turned out to be a wise idea. Brad found a Humana plan that included the family’s current doctors with a family deductible of $2,500, just half that of the plan he’d considered on the exchange. While the monthly premium was about $100 more expensive, he felt the tradeoff was worthwhile. “I was surprised the private market was so accommodating,” Brad says. “Before the ACA, I couldn’t find anything like this.”

Jonathan and Rose, forty-somethings in Washington State who are also subsidy-ineligible, viewed that option differently. Over the course of 20 years, the couple had cycled variously through employer policies, COBRA, two state high-risk pools (Rose has a preexisting condition) and individual policies. They compared plans on- and off-exchange and found those on the exchange marginally cheaper. But they could have bought the plan of their choice, available through the state exchange, directly from the insurer. Why not spare themselves the extra step as Karen and Brad did? “I chose to buy through the exchange because future income is never guaranteed and if I end up unemployed or with a lower-than-expected income in 2014, I can get the subsidies later when I file my taxes, if I’m eligible,” Jonathan explained.

More here

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Jonathan Chait: Barack Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Poverty, And Culture

Second, Coates argues (in yesterday’s column) that right-wing and liberal advocates of the cultural explanation have the same worldview. “What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill Cosby, Michael Nutter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama said before him,” he writes, “The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are ‘not holding up their end of the deal’ as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing.” There are points of overlap, to be sure, but the Ryan argument is dramatically different. Ryan’s analysis — or, at least, the analysis that follows consistently from his remarks and his policy agenda — is that culture now represents the entirety of the problem with the black poor. He attributes that culture to incentives put in place by the government not to work, and believes that removing those harmful incentives, in the form of cutting benefit programs, would teach poor black people to fend for themselves.

Obama’s habit of speaking about this issue primarily to black audiences is Obama seizing upon his role as the most famous and admired African-American in the world to urge positive habits and behavior. Coates is equating exhortation with analysis when he cites Obama urging African-Americans to “get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls.” Coates responds acidly that African-Americans “voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed.” The Obama quote cited by Coates is from January 2008. Before then, black people turned out in presidential elections at lower rates than white people. Since, then, they have turned out at higher rates.

More here

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Carrie Dann: Obama Rules Out ‘Military Excursion’ In Ukraine

President Barack Obama on Thursday ruled out a “military excursion” by the United States in Ukraine, saying that engaging Russia militarily “would not be appropriate.” “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine,” he said in an interview with KNSD in San Diego. “What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message, which is that Ukraine should decide their destiny.” “There is a better path, but I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge that for us to engage Russia militarily

would not be appropriate and would not be good for Ukraine either,” he added. In a separate interview with KSDK in St. Louis, Obama reiterated that a military option is not on the table but that the United States and its allies are prepared to take “even more disruptive economic actions.” Obama granted interviews to six local television stations on Wednesday. In the interview with KNSD, the president insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “acted out of weakness, not out of strength,” saying that Putin is “not comfortable” with countries loosening their ties to the Kremlin in favor of more freedom to deal with the West.

More here

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Breanna Edwards: Oprah To Headline At Virginia Democrat’s Fundraiser

All other Virginia Democrat campaigns, move aside: Oprah Winfrey is raising funds for Lavern Chatman, who is hoping to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran, also a Democrat, New York’s Daily News reports. The talk-show icon will be the headliner at an April 5 fundraiser in Arlington.

Chatman, former president of the Northern Virginia Urban League, says she’s “delighted” that her “good friend” Oprah will be helping her with the campaign. “To win a race like this, you need a lot of support and a strong grassroots effort,” Chatman told The Hill, the Daily News notes. “Our campaign is off to a tremendous start. We have inspired new volunteers and re-engaged many voters.”

More here

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NYT: Racing To Deadline, White House Plays To Young In Health Care Push

In the past three weeks, Mr. Obama has met with YouTube personalities in the Roosevelt Room, hosting some of the younger generation’s online favorites: a science geek, a drunken chef and an Obama impersonator. He dialed into Rickey Smiley’s hip-hop radio show and sat down in the Diplomatic Reception Room for separate interviews with the comedian Zach Galifianakis and a health care expert from WebMD. “We are going to leave no stone unturned,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president and the leader of the White House public engagement office, which is coordinating the Affordable Care Act effort. “Our goal is to meet people where they are.”

Michelle Obama urged people to sign up in an appearance at a health center in a black neighborhood in Miami, and made the pitch on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. plugged the health care site at Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta. The final push comes at a time when the administration is juggling other priorities. On March 6, at the height of the crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Obama spoke on the phone with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for an hour before going across town to urge Latinos to enroll during a town-hall meeting at a museum broadcast on three Spanish-language television networks. He returned to the White House a couple of hours later to announce the first sanctions on Russia.

On a conference call last week with almost 3,000 pastors, Mr. Obama declared it “crunch time” and asked them to do whatever they could do to urge members of their churches to sign up. At a small church in the Tampa, Fla., neighborhood of Sulphur Springs, the Rev. Timothy Wynn took up the challenge on Sunday. In front of about 50 parishioners, he delivered a sermon that combined his religious guidance with a pitch for insurance. Another YouTube star at the meeting was Hannah Hart, whose show “My Drunk Kitchen” is irreverent and hugely popular. An episode about making a grilled cheese sandwich while tipsy has gotten more than three million views, and a brunch episode, during which Ms. Hart repeatedly downs mimosas as she cooks pancakes and eggs, has gotten two million. In a video she made after leaving the White House meeting, Ms. Hart plugged the president’s website for her viewers.

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Milt Shook: Answering Charlie Pierce: Much Of The Democratic “Base” Isn’t Their Actual Base

In a blog post yesterday one of my favorite columnists, Charlie Pierce (he’s not just a liberal, but a hell of a sports columnist, too), posed a question that I have asked for many years. In fact, it’s a question that many progressives are getting sick of me asking, because they hate the answer: Somebody is going to have to explain to me why the Democratic “base,” which is presumably younger and more spry than the older and whiter Republican “base,” is nonetheless less likely to turn out for midterm elections than the That Sean Hannity Reminds Me Of My Grandson crowd. It is taken as a given, and past performance indicates clearly that it’s usually the case, but I’m not sure why it has to be. So, in the interest to changing this curious dynamic, let me take this red-hot poker and shove it up the base’s ass.

But let’s explain this to Charlie, since he asked: The easy answer, Charlie, is that many, if not most, of the people who proclaim themselves the Democratic “base” are actually anything but. Among these are a bunch of self-proclaimed (mostly white and not poor) progressives who complain about Democrats more than they complain about the current incarnation of the Republican Party. They seem to imagine themselves political experts, even though their actions show a profound ignorance of the real process. Many of them aren’t even registered Democratic, nor would they deign to set foot in a Democratic caucus of any kind. They’re not the “base,” by any stretch.

More here

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Kobe Bryant talks Basketball, President Barack Obama, ObamaCare, and why everyone should get covered now. Begins at 9:00

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Washington Post: This Guy Knew When Obamacare Enrollment Would Hit 5M Before Anyone Else. Now He’s Predicting 6.2M

The Obama administration on Monday announced that 5 million people had signed up for Obamacare exchange plans. Hours earlier, a self-employed Web developer from Michigan had already predicted the milestone would be hit on Monday. Meet Charles Gaba: He’s not a professional statistician, heath care expert or a political operative. He’s a self-described “numbers geek” who just wants to know how the new health care law is actually doing.

He’s been tracking the most up-to-date enrollment information and offering his own projections on his blog, ACAsignups.net. On the same day he predicted the 5 million signups milestone, he accurately predicted California would hit the 1 million mark. For policy wonks and health care journalists who have clamored for more information about Obamacare enrollment, Gaba’s blog has become a must-read. His next big prediction: The final signup tally will hit 6.22 million.

More here

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Ylan Mui: Federal Reserve Lays Groundwork For First Interest Rate Spike

The Federal Reserve spent the past five years driving home a single message: Zero percent interest rates are here to stay. Now it is preparing to change its tune. The nation’s central bank said Wednesday it will look at a broad swath of indicators – including job market data, inflation expectations and financial developments – as it determines when to raise rates for the first time since the recession hit. The deliberately vague wording is a retreat from the Fed’s concrete promise to leave rates untouched.

Though they disagree on when to act – targets range from this year to 2016 – the statement signals the moment has finally come within striking distance. The Fed has cast the shift as merely a change in semantics, not in official policy. In its statement, the central bank tried to assure investors that rates could remain below historical levels – even if they are no longer at zero.

More here

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ESPN: MSU Honored That Obama Chose Spartans

Three weeks ago, the expectations for the Michigan State basketball team were pretty low. Riddled with injuries and unable to find any semblance of chemistry, it seemed as though the Spartans were a team destined for an early NCAA tournament exit. A few wins and Big Ten tournament title later, they’re the No. 4 seed in the East Region. The expectations soared as fans discussed how under-seeded the Spartans were, how they were no worse off than Michigan or Wisconsin, which both received No. 2 seeds.

Then, President Obama picked the Spartans to win it all in his annual “Barack-etology.” For Michigan State, it was fine to know that experts and analysts were picking the Spartans to cut down the nets, but when the president of the United States knew the names and stats and stories of the Michigan State team, it struck some members of the team.  “When I saw that it was just bizarre that Barack Obama picked us and he was talking aboutKeith [Appling] and injuries and us getting back and playing together as a team,” Branden Dawson said.

More here

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On This Day:

President Barack Obama watches his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, on TV as she breaks ground for the White House vegetable garden, March 20, 2009. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs watches with him in the Upper Press Office of the West Wing. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama drops by Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev in the Vice President’s Office in West Wing of the White House, March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama walks through the Outer Oval Office in between health care meetings, March 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her grandson, following a meeting with Democratic Members of Congress to discuss the health insurance reform vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama plays soccer with children at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch a capoeira performance during their tour of the Ciudad de Deus Favela in Rio de Janeiro, March 20, 2011

President Barack Obama waves to people gathered on the street outside the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama fist bumps a young person reaching through the door at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama acknowledges applause after he delivers a speech at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama meets with Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office, March 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is welcomed by Vice President Biden as he arrives for a reception for Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the East Room of the White House, March 20, 2012

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President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Bo, the Obama family dog, waits for First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn driveway before departing the White House, March 20, 2013. Bo accompanied Mrs. Obama during her visit to Maryland Fisher House IV at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

15
Mar
14

Bo Obama: Five Years Of Love, Joy, Fun, And Happiness

The Obamas were introduced to Bo (who was born in Texas in 2008 and originally called ‘New Hope’) five years ago today, and the rest was history. Here’s to many more Bo years!

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The White House Debuts The Obamas' New Dog Bo, A Portuguese Water Dog

First Lady Michelle Obama receives the White House Christmas Tree

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Michelle Obama Visits Children’s National Medical Center

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Continue reading ‘Bo Obama: Five Years Of Love, Joy, Fun, And Happiness’

14
Mar
14

President Obama Talks ObamaCare

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Sierra Marquina: President Barack Obama Talks Affordable Care Act, Zach Galifianakis, And Shopping At Gap

The Affordable Care Act was signed in to law by Obama in 2010 with the goal of increasing the quality, affordability, and attainability of health insurance and to date, over 4.2 million people have signed up. But President Obama stresses there are many more who need and should sign up for ObamaCare. However, for those who do not have health insurance, Obama stresses: “You should go to healthcare.gov and compare the prices that are available for various private plans. And they’re the same kind of plans that you’d get on the job that people are familiar with, things like Blue Cross and Aetna, depending on the state. And what healthcare.gov will show is the kinds of plans that are available, the prices that are available and whether you’re eligible for some sort of tax credit. And for a lot of people, they will find that for $100 or less, they can get really good health insurance – in some cases, it’s going to be less than the cost of their cellphone bill or their cable bill.” Why is it so important to make sure you’re covered? Obama explains it’s because “you never know what kind of curveballs life throws at you.”

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The president feels so strongly about the ACA, he even faced comedian Zach Galifianakis on his Funny or Die comedy series Between Two Ferns, where Zach called him a nerd, amongst other things. “Zach actually was pretty nervous,” Obama reveals with a laugh. “It was funny to watch because this whole Between Two Ferns schtick – which I wasn’t familiar with before my staff told me that we had been pitched to do this – his whole character is to go after the guest and I think he was looking around and seeing all these Secret Service guys with guns and thinking, ‘I wonder what happens here if I cross the line?’ But we had a great time.” “And as I said, I wasn’t familiar with this thing, but when I was at the dinner table with the girls and I said, ‘Well today I did something with Zach, it’s called Two Ferns I think?’ Malia was so excited! She had seen all the previous episodes, so I figured it was going to reach our target audience, which is a lot of young people and it turns out we’ve had close to 15 million hits. And the amazing thing is afterwards people actually did link to healthcare.gov and people actually signed up for health insurance, so it ended up working, but I think I have to keep my day job.”

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Yes Sir, you really, really, really, really do

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“I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,” Obama jokes. “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans. There was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans mainly because I was out on the pitcher’s mound and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching and I think I’ve paid my penance for that. I got whacked pretty good. Since that time, my jeans fit very well.”

More here

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Sierra Marquina: Gap Employee Gives Details On Shopping With President Obama

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